Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

“If I were a dictator, religion and state would be separate. I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to do with it. The state would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody’s personal concern!”

-Mahatma Gandhi

When different cultures and communities exist within the same country, how should a democratic state ensure equality for each of them? . In this assignment we will try and see how the concept of secularism may be applied to answer that concern. In India, the idea of secularism is ever present in public debates and discussions, yet there is something very perplexing about the state of secularism in India. On the one hand, almost every politician swears by it. Every political party professes to be secular. On the other hand, all kinds of anxieties and doubts beset secularism in India. Secularism is challenged not only by clerics and religious nationalists but by some politicians, social activists and even academics.

In politics today, both Indian and International, perhaps few other words of frequent use are as confusing, abused and misunderstood as Secularism. The West is believed to be the cradle of this concept. But, as we shall see soon, in the Western dictionaries secularism is described as something opposed to religion, as something which has nothing to do with God or with anything super-natural or transcendental.

Its origin can be traced to the western world view. It is, therefore, important to understand its philosophical base to fully appreciate its connotation, its importance and its limitations. The word secular is derived from the Latin word’ sacularis’ which meant, among other things, ‘that which belongs to this world, non-spiritual, temporal as opposed to spiritual or ecclesiastical thing’. It is a form applied in general to the separation of state politics or administration from religious matters, and ‘secular education.’ is a system of training from which religious teaching is definitely excluded.

Philosophically, the term reveals the influence of positivism and utilitarianism. ‘Positivism supplied a conception of knowledge affording a basis upon which it was held that religious considerations could be ruled out and utilitarianism lent itself to a non-religious explanation of the motives and ends of conduct’.

English dictionaries define “secularism” as the quality of “having no concern with religion or spiritual matters”. But they also describe it as “ a system which seeks to interpret and order life or principles taken solely from this world.” Therefore, secularism in the political sphere refers to the freedom of the state to deal with the affairs of the world without interference from any religious authorities. In other words, secularism is mainly interpreted in present day studies as “the neutrality of the state in regard to religion.”

The term secularism was coined in 1850 by G.J. Molyoake (an Owenite Socialist, an atheist and the last person to be imprisoned for blasphemy in Britain), who saw it a movement , which provided an alternative to theism

Secularism as followed in India:

India, the land of origin of four major religions – Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism has had a different case. While the West was in the process of conceiving the idea of Secularism as discussed above, India was ruled by a Muslim dynasty (Mughals). When India declared itself as a secular state through its constitution, the critics said that it a blatant copy of the west. But they failed to see that two of the great emperors – Ashoka The Great and Akbar The Great had established their empires on the very ideas which the states of modern era fail to emulate now.

The Indian idea of secularism is quite different from the West. While the West emphasizes on the separation of state and religion, the great empires of India were guided by religious doctrines.

Hinduism is based on religious tolerance – accommodating others’ ideas into its own. It preaches for benevolence, sympathy, compassion and non-violence. The rulers in ancient India tried to establish their kingdom based on these values. Their inscriptions can still be found scattered all over India and abroad.

The Indian idea of Secularism is based on these principles:

  • Separation of state and religion is not sufficient for the existence of a secular state.
  • State must not only be non-theocratic but also have no formal, legal alliance with any religion.
  • State should endeavor to establish peace, religious freedom,  and eradicate discrimination. Note that this concept is missing in western thought, because they never had the experience of multi-religious society, as in India.

Theoretical Rationale

By secularism, we generally mean the principle in which people belonging to one religion do not oppress people belonging to other religions. This concept has had different interpretations in the East and the West.

The well-known historian, Professor K. N. Panikkar points out two aspects of secularization: “First, a struggle to develop a system of belief and social practice regulated by reason through a rationalist critique of religion and social mores. Second, an attempt to de-emphasize otherworldliness and to focus attention on the reality of material existence”

Secularism in India

The situations and the circumstances from which ‘secularism’ took its origin in India are quite different from those of the West. Pluralism especially when there arose conflicts between religions. True, Religious Pluralism was a fact of life in India from time immemorial. In fact, some sort of minor religious conflicts arose in the context of Buddhism and Jainism. But emperors like Ashoka nipped it in the bud through various administrative measures. Even the Muslim rulers like Akbar and Hydar-ali saw to it that their rule would not lead to serious inter-religious conflicts.

If Rigveda teaches ekam sat viprah bahudha vadanti (Truth is one but scholars speaks of it diversely) it may not have originated in the context of religious pluralism as we understand today. Thechatushkoti of Vedant (fourfold opposing affirmation of a thing) and the Saptabhanginaya of Jainism (the sevenfold opposing affirmations of a thing) based onanekantvada (many-sidedness of reality) seem to depend more on peculiar mind-sets of the people rather than religious pluralism as we understand today. It is this mind-set, which produced the well-known parable of the four congenitally blind people describing the nature of an elephant by touching its different limbs.

After independence Indian democracy willy-nilly followed the Gandhian and the Nehruvian concepts of secularism.

“Nehruvian dharma-nirapeksata and Gandhian sarva-dharma-samabhavre present the two most significant models of secular ideologies that were subsumed into the national consensus, where ‘they are frequently mistaken for or conflated with each other’ . There were others too, like Tagore with his deep humanism and Lohia with his committed socialism that by and large supported rather than undermined this consensus. Eventually the various tensions and contradictions between these diverse ‘secularism’ were also fused or rather confused”.

“I do not expect India of my dreams to develop one religion, i.e., to be wholly Hindu or wholly Christian or wholly Mussalman, but I want it to be wholly tolerant, with its religions working side by side with one another.” So said Mahatma Gandhi.

During the freedom struggle, secularism was emerging as the most dominant principle. The leaders of the Indian National Congress; Gandhi, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Nehru and others were deeply committed to the ideal of secularism, though each expressed it in very different manners. Secularism became the mantra of the Indian nation, a nation exhausted by partition and sectarian riots and above all the assassination of Gandhiji, did not want any more divisive talk. The founding fathers represented the aspirations of the different sections of society and it is due to the struggles of these different people that secular principles got enshrined into the Indian constitution.

Under Jawaharlal Nehru, the concept of a secular nation-state was officially adopted as India’s path to political modernity and national integration. Unlike in the West, where secularism came mainly out of the conflict between the Church and the State, secularism in India was conceived as a system that sustained religious and cultural pluralism.

In the post Independent scenario the social dynamics was very complex. The process of secularisation/industrialisation was going on at a slow pace. Even at this stage, though constitution was secular, the state apparatus: the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the army and the police were infiltrated by communal elements. The Congress government, though predominantly secular, had many leaders in important positions who were influenced by a Hindu communal ideology. This resulted in a social development that was mixed; on the one hand secularism thrived and on the other though communalism remained dormant, was never dead. With the social changes of the late 70′s and the early 80′s, communalism got a strong boost and it started attacking secularism in a big way.

Secularism introduces science, technology and rationalism in the society and forms the basis of a modern secular state. In the process, it has to oppose and struggle against the clergy and vested forces in the society. And as such, the fundamentalist communal onslaughts are the ‘other’ of secularism and secularization. The oppressed sections join the secular movement to wrest the accompanying liberal space that can be the base for launching the struggles for their rights. Fundamentalism is the regressive reaction of feudal elements and sections of middle classes in league with the clergy, to crush the aspirations of oppressed class, whose movements for their rights is a big source of tension for them. The secularization process and the accompanying movements of the oppressed increase the insecurity of fundamentalist forces. They try to lure these classes into their fold through religion and liberal use of money and muscle power.

It is not so much a question of defending or preserving the existing secular character of the Indian polity, but rather a need to create and build a secular polity in the nation. Only the ideal of building a secular democratic nation can stem the tide of communal fascism in the country. Sarva Dharma Sambhav has to operate at the personal as well as the social level, while Dharma Nirpekshata or Secularism per se continues to be the state policy. Religious clergy, bigotry, dogmas and rituals cannot be allowed to guide the state.

Mahatma Gandhi has rightly said: “I swear by my religion, I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The State has nothing to do with it. The State would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody’s personal concern!”

This strength of the Hindu religion is now viewed as a weakness. The B.J.P. was quick to take up the mantle of ‘the’ communal party, riding on the wave of the post-mandal upper class/caste backlash. The BJP began attacking, what they called “pseudo-secularism”, which pampered the minorities at the expense of the majority and demanded that special rights for minorities be taken away.

Supporting the BJP was the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a relatively new outfit with branches all over the world and drawing on support, both moral and financial, from the Hindu diaspora in the West. This took an aggressive form when the Babri Masjid\Ramjanambhoomi controversy erupted. This period also saw the rise of other militant Hindu organizations such as the BajrangDal and the Shivsena. These groups quickly mushroomed and poisoned the social space with communal rhetoric and the agenda of Hindu Rashtra; and launched an ideological, social and political onslaught on secular ethos, syncretic culture and composite nationalism. They refused to recognize the contributions of Muslims and other minorities, to India’s history and culture. They selectively concentrated on intolerant Muslim rulers, extending their often-brutal conduct to the entire period of Muslim rule and, even to all Muslims. But such prejudices were not openly aired in public; but now they have not only gained legitimacy, but have also almost become the mainstream opinion.

The attack on the Mosque at Ayodhya led to a rash of violence across the country. The events leading to the demolition of Babri Masjid and their aftermath of communal carnage mark a watershed in the history of free India. The traumatic events clearly exposed the chasm that had been created between the two communities by communal forces.

The year 2002 witnessed one of the most devastating riots in Gujarat where mobs went on a rampage, destroying Muslim homes and businesses, killed Muslims, including men women and children and drove thousands of people away from their homes. The ostensible reason for this fury was the burning of a train coach that was carrying Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya. Fifty-nine people including women and children died in the fire. This action, sparked off, as the state’s Chief Minister put it, in Newtonian terms, a reaction, except that it was grossly disproportionate to the original crime. A Human Right’s Watch report paints a chilling picture of state complicity in the religious violence in Gujarat. This marks the first time when the state has emerged as a major player and actor in violence by mobs, a qualitative change from previous such situations in India. It is in this backdrop that one has to understand, as to why it is only during the last decade and a half that secularism has come under a cloud and the concept of a Hindu Rashtra is being asserted aggressively.

Today, the biggest challenge to the Indian nation is coming from forces claiming to represent the mainstream majority. There is an emergence of extremist voices that claim to speak for Hindus and they are laying down demands that threaten the very idea of a secular India. The biggest area of concern is that the state has emerged to be complicit, as an actor and player in mounting this challenge to Indian pluralism, which goes under the name of Hindutva.

The communal forces are actively propagating the myth that Secularism is a new mask of fundamentalism. They denigrate the secular policies, which are a hindrance to Hindu Right’s unobstructed march to subjugate the oppressed in general and minorities in particular. They are equating fundamentalism with Islam; and the policies of Indian rulers with secularism, and the appeasement of mullahs as being synonymous with secular policies. Further, Hindutva forces accuse that secularism pampers the Muslims as a vote bank. The Muslims are accused of extra-territorial loyalty because they allegedly cheer for Pakistan whenever India and Pakistan play cricket. Since Muslims are being thought synonymous to fundamentalism; therefore the assertion that the Indian state is appeasing fundamentalists in the name of secularism. It is precisely on this charge that the Father of Indian Nationalism, Mahatma Gandhi, was assassinated by one of the votaries of Hindutva.

The Christians, who are much lesser in number, are accused of being more loyal to the Vatican, another outside force and of trying to convert poor Hindus with inducements of education and food. Who can forget the brutal burning of Graham Staines and his two minor sons by a member of the Bajrang Dal in the name of religion? Or even the rape of some sisters in Gujarat, their fault being the spreading of the word of their God.

The fact, however, is that the social and the economic conditions of the Muslim community is dismal. If at all the opportunist political policies of various governments have struck compromises, it has been with certain religious leaders of the minorities and the minorities have been kept in abysmal conditions. In that sense, the govt. policies have been anti-oppressed, rather than pro Muslim. Further, the fact that 130 million Muslims decided to stay back in India rather than joining Pakistan, should settle their status as true citizens.

Secularism introduces science, technology and rationalism in the society and forms the basis of a modern secular state. In the process, it has to oppose and struggle against the clergy and vested forces in the society. And as such, the fundamentalist communal onslaughts are the ‘other’ of secularism and secularization. The oppressed sections join the secular movement to wrest the accompanying liberal space that can be the base for launching the struggles for their rights. Fundamentalism is the regressive reaction of feudal elements and sections of middle classes in league with the clergy, to crush the aspirations of oppressed class, whose movements for their rights is a big source of tension for them. The secularization process and the accompanying movements of the oppressed increase the insecurity of fundamentalist forces. They try to lure these classes into their fold through religion and liberal use of money and muscle power.

Secularism in the Indian context should imply respect for pluralism and a non-coercive and a voluntary recourse to change. Respect for diversity not only embodies the democratic spirit, it is the real guarantee of unity. We should value democratic, not fascistic, unity. No democratic society can downgrade diversity and pluralism in the name of unity. Secular ethics can be strengthened only when the acts of vandalism are sternly dealt with and the guilty are made to pay for it. With secularism that insists on the inalienable rights of the citizens and a due process of law, it will be easier to mount public pressure against sectarian killers and those who promote hatred. The battle of secularism and democracy has also to be fought at the grass root levels where a set ideals generating strong idealism is required to mobilize and prepare the masses for struggle.

In the end, secularism begins in the heart of every individual. There should be no feeling of “otherness” as we all have is a shared history. India being a traditional society that contains, not one, but many traditions, owing their origin in part to the different religions that exist here, has so far managed to retain the secular character of its polity. Ours is a society where Sufis and Bhakti saints have brought in a cultural acceptance for each other. Are we going to let it all go to waste and listen to people who have concern for their careers as politicians or leaders rather than our welfare at heart? Let us instead concentrate our efforts at making India a powerful and progressive nation.

Constitutional position of Secularism in India

By opting for secularism, the framers of the Indian Constitution opted not only for democracy but also for a harmony among different faiths and for a dialogue among different cultural traditions. For them the scenario was clear: it takes several religious groups to come together and to decide to be secular. As such, it was enough to interpret Hinduism as inherently secular. So in the same manner, to press religion into the service of politics, Gandhi declared that his Hinduism was “all-inclusive” and it stood for tolerance. To be truly secular the Indian state had to promote all religions and cultural identities and to build them with the secular interests of the nation. In other words, religious pluralism and religious tolerance became the bedrock of the Indian concept of secularism.

The Indian model of secularism was presented as a “symmetry” model, where the acceptance of the legitimacy of pluralism and diversity became central. However, for this pluralism to function and to be successful in defining the Indian common good, all  religious communities had to on a minimal consensus regarding shared values and  shared rules for conflict management between different religious groups.  This minimal consensus on shared values acted as a unifying force amidst diversity. As such, mutual respect and tolerance became the most important values to keep religious pluralism in place in India.  As a result, Indian secularism became a bridge between religions in a multi-religious society. It became a way for extending the principle of pluralism to religiosity. As Lala Rajpat Rai wrote , “ The Indian notion, such as we intend to build, neither is, nor will be, exclusively Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian. It will be each and all.” In that sense, Indian secularism advocates a form of neutrality and non-preferentialism in regard to different religions. In this context, religious minorities can best be protected by a democratic state that ensures religious tolerance.

Nehru insisted that free India should be non communal, secular state. “The government of a country like India,” Nehru declared “with many religions that have secured great acceptance and deep followings for generations, can never function satisfactorily in the modern age accept on a secular basis.” He boasts of the fact that “our Constitution is based on secular conception and gives freedom to all religions.

India is a secular country as per the declaration in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution. It prohibits discrimination against members of a particular religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth .India, therefore does not have an official state religion. Every person has the right to preach, practice and propagate any religion they choose. The government must not favour or discriminate against any religion. It must treat all religions with equal respect. All citizens, irrespective of their religious beliefs are equal in front of law.

In the beginning of the Preamble of the Indian Constitution the word secular was inserted in the 42nd amendment: “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign ‘Socialist’ Secular Democratic Re-public and to secure to all its citizens…”

The basic outlines of the Secularism are enshrined in the following Articles of the Constitution:

1. Preamble: It is true that the word ‘secular’ did not first occur either in Article 25 or 26 or in any other Article or Preamble of the Constitution.By the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976, the Preamble was amended and for the words ‘Sovereign Democratic Republic’ the words ‘Sovereign, socialist, secular, Democratic Republic’ were substituted.

2. No State Religion: There shall be no ‘state religion’ in India. The state will neither establish a religion of its own nor confer any special patronage upon any particular religion.

It follows from that:

1. The state will not compel any citizen to pay any tax for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious institution (Article 27).

2. No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly run by state funds.

3. Even though religious instruction be imparted in educational institutions recognised by state or receiving aid from the state, no person at lending such institution shall be compelled to receive that religious instruction without the consent of himself or of his guardian. In short, while religious instruction is totally banned in state-owned educational institutions, in other denominational institutions it is not totally prohibited but it must not be imposed upon people of other religions without their consent (Article 28).

3. Freedom of Conscience: Avery person is guaranteed the freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess, practise and propagate his own religion, subject only:

1. to restrictions imposed by the state on the interest of public order, morality and health (so that the freedom of religion may not be abused to commit crimes or antisocial acts, e.g., to commit the practice of infanticide, and the like);

2. to regulations or restrictions made by state relating, to any economic, financial, political or outer secular activity which may be associated with religious practice, bill do not really related to the freedom of conscience;

3. to measures of social reform and for throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus. Subject to above limitations, a person in India shall have the right not only to entertain any religious belief but also to practise the obligations dictated by such belief, and to preach his see%., to ethers (Article 2Fi)

4. Freedom to Manage Religious Affairs: individual to pro fess, practise and propagate his religion, them is also the right guaranteed to every religious groups or denominations:

  • To establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes.
  • To manage its own affairs in matters of religion;
  • To own and acquire movable and immovable property; and
  • To administer such property in accordance with law

5. Cultural and Educational Rights: Under Article 29 and 30 certain cultural and educational rights are guaranteed. Article 29 guarantees the right cf any section of the citizens residing in any part of the country having a distinct language, script or culture of its own and to conserve the same Article 30 provides that all minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice”.

The sub-committee on the Minorities placed the recognised minority communities in three groups:

1. Communities with a population of less than 0.5% in the Indian Dominion omitting the princely states.

1. Anglo Indian

2. Parsecs

3. Plains Tribesmen in Assam 13. Population not exceeding 1.5% C. Indian Christians I). Population exceeding 1,54.6

4. Sikhs

5. Muslims

6. Scheduled Castes

Legal  position of Secularism in India

Although the term secularism was not in the original text of the Constitution, secularism was a subject of animated discussion when the Constituent Assembly look up for consideration the provisions dealing with the freedom of religion.

Explaining the secular character of the Indian Constitution the Supreme Court observed: “There is no mysticism in the secular character of the state. Secularism is neither anti-God nor pro-God, it treats alike the devout, the agnostic and the atheist. It eliminates God from the matter of the state and ensures no one shall be discriminated against on the ground of religion.

Theory and Practice of Secularism in India

When Jawaharlal Nehru framed the objective Resolution of the Constitutor secularism figured as an important aspect of C Known to be a secularist by ‘instinct’, Nehru associated secularism with modernity and considered sentiments based on caste and religion as backward and a belief from the past. He felt that religious tolerance, an essential aspect of secularism was a characteristic of Indian culture. But this was not all. According to Nehru, narrow religious groupings, binding or loyalties must exclude many sections of the population and only create Hindu nationalism, Muslim nationalism and Christian nationalism and not Indian nationalism. In a country with different religious groups, it is important to build real nationalism on the basis of the secularity. What is a secular state? Nehru was not happy with the word ‘secular’ but used it for want of a better word:

“It does not obviously mean a state where religion as such is discouraged. It means freedom of religion and conscience, including freedom for those who have no religion. It means free play for all religions, subject only to their not interfering with each other or with the basic concept of our state”.

A secular suite, therefore, is not an anti-religious state but a state without a religion. It involves the concept of religious freedom for all faiths living within the state. Secularism is not only a characteristic of the state but involves the concept of religious co-existence and the concept of equal citizenship rights It also characterizes an attitude of mind which must be shared by the minority and majority religious communities living within the state.

K.N. Panikkar argues that there are three characteristics of the kind of secular state that India claims to be:

Firstly, the secular slate postulates that political institutions must be based on the economic and social interests of the entire community, without reference to religion, race or seat; that all must enjoy equal rights and no privileges, prescriptive rights or special claims should be allowed for any group on the basis of religion.

Secondly, it eliminates from the body politic ideas of division between individuals and groups on the basis of their faith and racial origin.

Thirdly, it is obvious that a composite secular state must accept as the basis of its policy what Aristotle termed as ‘distributive justice’, the idea that all communities must have power, as they must share the duties and responsibilities of being citizens.

Secularism has to play a decisive role at present stage of Indian democracy. It is so because today when the Indian democracy seems to face the challenge of narrow divisive trends and tendencies. A rational and scientific approach which is the basis of secularism has become a matter of utmost importance. Communal disturbances which have distinguished the public life in the recent past, as well the birth and growth of narrow and divisive trends and obscurantist theories are mainly the result of ignorance can be fought not by legislation alone, nor by a negative fiat alone, but by education only.

The present Indian scenario-

Indian secularism has been subjected to fierce criticism. What are these criticisms?


First, it is often argued that secularism is anti-religious. We hope to have shown that secularism is against institutionalised religious domination. This is not the same as being anti-religious.

Similarly, it has been argued by some that secularism threatens religious identity. However, as we noted earlier, secularism promotes religious freedom and equality. Hence, it clearly protects religious identity rather than threatens it. Of course, it does undermine

some forms of religious identity: those, which are dogmatic, violent, fanatical, exclusivist and those, which foster hatred of other religions. The real question is not whether something is undermined but whether what is undermined is intrinsically worthy or unworthy.

Western Import

Another criticism is that secularism is linked to Christianity, that it is western and, therefore, unsuited to Indian conditions. On the surface, this is a strange complaint. For there are millions of things in India today, from trousers to the internet and parliamentary democracy, that have their origins in the west. One response, therefore, could be: so what? Have you heard a European complain that because zero was invented in India, they will not work with it?

However, this is a somewhat shallow response. The more important and relevant point is that for a state to be truly secular, it must have ends of its own. Western states became secular when, at an important level, they challenged the control of established religious authority over social and political life.

A secular state may keep a principled distance from religion to promote peace between communities and it may also intervene to protect the rights of specific communities.

This exactly is what has happened in India. India evolved a variant of secularism that is not just an implant from the west on Indian soil. The fact is that the secularism has both western and nonwestern origins. In the west, it was the Church-state separation which was central and in countries such as India, the idea of peaceful coexistence of different religious communities has been important.


An accusation against secularism is the charge of minoritism. It is true that Indian secularism advocates minority rights so the question is: Is this justified? Consider four adults in a compartment

What holds true of individuals also holds for communities. The most fundamental interest of minorities must not be harmed and must be protected by constitutional law. This is exactly how it is in theIndian Constitution. Minority rights are justified as long as these rights protect their fundamental interests.

At this point someone might still say that minority rights are special privileges which come with some costs to others.


Another  criticism claims that secularism is coercive and that it interferes excessively with the religious freedom of communities. This misreads Indian secularism. It is true that by rejecting the idea of separation as mutual exclusion, Indian secularism rejects non-interference in religion. But it does not follow that it is excessively interventionist. Indian secularism follows the concept of principled distance which also allows for noninterference.

Besides, interference need not automatically mean coercive intervention.

It is of course true that Indian secularism permits state-supported religious reform. But this should not be equated with a change imposed from above, with coercive intervention. But it might be argued: does it do this consistently? Why have personal laws of all religious communities not been reformed? This is the big dilemma facing the Indian state. A secularist might see the personal laws (laws concerning marriage, inheritance and other family matters which are governed by different religions) as manifestations of community specific rights that are protected by the Constitution. Or he might see these laws as an affront to the basic principles of secularism on the ground that they treat women unequally and therefore unjustly. Personal laws can be seen as manifestations of freedom

Vote Bank Politics

There is the argument that secularism encourages the politics of vote banks. As an empirical claim, this is not entirely false. However, we need to put this issue in perspective. First, in a democracy politicians are bound to seek votes. That is part of their job and that is what democratic politics is largely about. To blame a politician for pursuing a group of people or promising to initiate a policy with the motivation to secure their votes is unfair. The real question is what precisely the vote is sought for. Is it to promote solely his self-interest or power or is it also for the welfare of the group in question? If the group which voted for the politician does not get any benefit from this act, then surely the politician must be blamed. If secular politicians who sought the votes of minorities also manage to give them what they want, then this is a success of the secular project which aims, after all, to also protect the interests of the minorities.

In India it’s  Lip service to the concept of secularism on top of the extremely malevolent practise of exhibiting undue, misplaced and meek deference to religious identities of people/voters. Here, we actually seek to strengthen the hold of Religion on matters of state, as opposed to bolstering the separation between religion and state.

Protecting Religious freedom is one thing, but discriminating between people based on their religious orientation is quite another. To deny this is a crime against the principles of Egalitarianism, foundation of our democracy.

Our Indian law discriminates among religions and panders to the vested interests of many religious subgroups. Eg -the absence of Uniform Civil Code in India? or What are the things in India that a Muslim can do legally while other Indians cannot? Our law can discriminate people based on caste and creed if it wants to.

Paying equal respect to every religion , is the very anti-thesis of the concept of secularism. It’s a wicked fallacy because some religions do make it their business to infringe on the rights of others (homosexuals, women, infidels, you name it), they try, with all their might and ignorance, to ensure that their adherents be more equal among equals. We could do without such nonsense.

Here in India, anything that promotes Hinduism is criticised, spurned, and not tolerated but any criticism or mockery of any other denomination is always blindly projected as an act of intolerance, or an abuse of freedom, if you will.

India has no clue as to what democracy really entails. Effectively, mostly anti-Hinduism coupled with excessive mollycoddling of other creeds defines ‘secularism’ for Indians. I think that’s what prompted Arun Shourie to remark that the word “Secularism” has been prostituted.

Sans secularism and unity among various people, pluralism can be hugely explosive! It’s a dangerous concept, pluralism, and mostly incompatible in the current socio-political concept.

We have merely adopted the appearance and failed to actually grasp the profound concept of democracy or secularism or egalitarianism. This is what happens when you only import the style and not the substance.

Secularism is very different from a pseudo-masochistic orgy of self-hatred or toleration of intolerance; it is rather a tactic for self-defense.

“Let’s not talk about religion at all. To hell with religion” – that is the central aspect of secularism which these phony-intellectuals have always failed to grasp.

Secularism is not about meekly tolerating meta-physical or supernatural balderdash, or glorifying cherry-picked tenets of one religion over the other; it is about consciously resisting the very concept of religion altogether.

While, in the west, these concepts are instilled naturally, in India, these are not learnt spontaneously; rather the horrific indigenous misinterpretations of secularism are haphazardly drummed into our heads.

“All these problems do occur because of different interpretations of the principles of secularism.” ~ Bulent Arinc



  • . “A Secular Agenda – For Strengthening Our Country,For Welding It” by Arun Shourie, Publisher: Rupa & Co, Language : English
  • G.J. Larson, Religion and Personal Law in Secular India: A Call to Judgment, Indiana University Press, ISBN 978-0253214805
  • “Indian Controversies: Essays on Religion in Politics” by Arun Shourie, Publishers: Rupa & Co, South Asia Books, A S A Publications, Language: English
  • “India’s secularism: new name for national subversion”, original in Hindi by Sita Ram Goel, translated into English by Yashpal Sharma, Publisher: Voice of India
  • “Muslim politics in Secular India” by Hamid Umar Dalwai, Publisher: Hind Pocket Books, Language:English








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